Report: 130 known cases of mysterious Havana Syndrome – National & International News – FRI 14May2021

Havana Syndrome spreading? Reports: Colonial Pipeline paid $5m ransom. MO Gov drops voter-approved Medicaid expansion. Israel crisis boosts Netanyahu.


Report claims 130 cases of Havana Syndrome, so far

Reports indicate that there may be as many as 130 cases of the “Havana Syndrome” among State Department personnel, defense officials and government agents. Some of these have surfaced in recent weeks.

The Havana Syndrome is so-named due to a 2016 incident where several workers at the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba, suffered sudden and debilitating symptoms. The symptoms of the “attacks” vary widely. Sufferers variously report nausea, disorientation, loud ringing in the ears, nausea, dizziness, fainting, explosive headaches, and involuntary muscle spasms. 

Similar reports followed from US diplomats in China a couple of years later. Recently, two White House staffers have reported “attacks”. One took place at the White House itself. The other happened while a staffer was out walking her dog in a DC suburb. She reported that her dog began writhing seconds before she herself was affected.

Science in doubt

These attacks also seem to have long-term effects on their victims. This includes one finding that 40 of the Havana diplomats had suffered brain injuries. Many victims report symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, headaches and “cognitive fog” long after the attacks. 

A National Academy of Sciences study from December concluded that the damage was likely the result of some sort of weapon using directed radio frequencies. 

Despite this, opinion in the scientific community remains divided on this phenomenon. Cheryl Rofer, a chemist, has questioned the conclusions of the NAS study. She is also doubtful as to whether any such weapon exists or could exist. Rofer also believes it would be impossible for a microwave weapon to affect the human brain without leaving visible marks on the outside of the body. 

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Sources: Colonial Pipeline paid hackers $5m in ransom

Several news agencies have cited sources who say that Colonial Pipeline paid $5 million in ransom to hackers who hijacked the pipeline over the weekend and forced a shutdown. Colonial has not confirmed the reports. Initial reports indicated that Colonial had declined to pay the ransom.

Following the attack, Colonial announced it would resume operations on Wednesday. But it may take several days for fuel deliveries to return to normal. In the meantime, panic buying across the US has left shortages in many areas.

The cyber gang DarkSide, which US officials suspect is based in Russia, has also targeted Japanese tech giant Toshiba.

These reports come after another Russian cyber gang, Babuk, threatened to release sensitive files stolen from the Washington DC Police Department unless they received an unspecified amount in ransom. 

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Missouri Governor drops voter-approved Medicaid expansion

In an August ballot initiative, 53% of Missouri voters approved an amendment to the state’s constitution that would have expanded the state’s Medicaid program, MO HealthNet. The expansion would have raised the eligibility threshold to 138% of the federal poverty level, or about $17,774 for a single adult and $37,570 for a family of four.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson announced yesterday that he was dropping plans for the expansion after the Republican-controlled legislature refused to fund it. Parsons said “Although I was never in support of MO HealthNet expansion, I always said that I would uphold the ballot amendment if it passed”.  Parson acknowledged that the decision would leave the state’s government open to legal action.

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Israel in flames; Netanyahu in driver’s seat

As the death toll from the recent Israeli-Palestinian hostilities climbs into triple digits, embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finds his recently waning political star is rising again.

Following Israel’s fourth round of inconclusive elections in 2 years, Netanyahu was in his most precarious political position in over a decade. After weeks of failing to put together a ruling coalition, Netanyahu’s mandate passed to his centrist rival, Yair Lapid. Lapid’s prospects depended on stitching together a coalition of hardline right-wing politicians and small Islamic parties. Prior to the outbreak of hostilities, Lapid was on the verge of stitching together a coalition of small right-wing parties and smaller Islamic parties. The only shared political belief among the disparate parties seemed to be that it was time for Netanyahu to go.

One of the kingmakers in this equation was Naftali Bennet, leader of a small right-wing party. Just as Bennet seemed ready to sign on the dotted line, the fireworks began. In an abrupt reversal, Bennet now says he will no longer seek an alternative government to oust Netanyahu.

This likely means a 5th round of elections in Israeli in just over two years. In the meantime, Netanyahu gets to keep his seat, hoping the next elections will bring a more decisive outcome in his favor.

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